Air quality continues to fluctuate in Kingston

The polluted sky above Kingston on Wednesday morning / YGK News

Kingston residents, especially those with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, are recommended to keep indoors while smoke plumes from forest fires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario continue to compromise the air quality in southeastern Ontario.

KFL&A Public Health said the region might experience improved air quality throughout Thursday before once again deteriorating on Friday.

Air Quality Ontario said on Thursday morning that Kingston’s air quality was at a low level of risk, ranked a 3 when previous days have seen risk levels of 10 or higher at times.

Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, a respirologist with KHSC and Queen’s University, said while its recommended that everyone avoid exposure to the air pollution if possible the majority of people don’t have to be overly worried about adverse health effects.

Dr. Fitzpatrick said however that those with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular conditions should make extra effort to avoid exposure.

“I think the bigger concern is people who have pre-existing respiratory diseases,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said.

“For those patients the problem is they’ll tend to get irritation of their airways and that will result in more symptoms, more medication use, and ultimately more need to attend the emergency room and more admissions to the hospital with respiratory disease.”

If exposed for long enough, air pollution could result in irritation of eyes, nose, and throat at the minor end of things.

In addition to those with underlying conditions, Dr. Fitzpatrick says its smart for older patients especially those with cardiovascular concerns to avoid exposure, and said those who are pregnant should take precaution as well as there have been some reports of women going into labour early due to air pollution exposure.

Dr. Fitzpatrick says most people can continue to go about their day to day to tasks while limiting outside air exposure as much as possible, wearing an N95 or well fitting mask when going outside is unavoidable.

While indoors it is recommended to keep windows and doors closed and make use of an air purifier if possible.

Generally for healthy people, the risk is low and exercising common sense to avoid unnecessary exposure is all that’s called for.

“Using common sense and avoiding the pollution to the greatest extent you can is sensible,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said.

“I don’t want people to get excessively alarmed here. Healthy, normal people can get out and do what they need to do, I would just encourage them to spend as little time outside and not have hours of exposure to high levels of air pollution if it’s avoidable.”

Dr. Fitzpatrick also added that impacts from smoke pollution will be similar on pets, and to keep pets indoors where feasible to avoid their own exposure.

Different areas are at the mercy of weather conditions as prevailing winds migrate the air pollution, with New York City currently experiencing the worst air quality in the world thanks to Canadian fires.

Kingston is getting some rain on Thursday and is forecasted to get more showers Friday and next week, areas in Quebec are also expected to see rain.

US President Joe Biden has also pledged more support from south of the border with the raging wildfires.

As of Wednesday night, 414 wildfires were burning in Canada with 239 considered out of control.